New major, council tackle old issues | News, Sports, Jobs

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby Mayor Frank LaRocque, far right, and the Rugby City Council hold their regular meeting July 5 at the Rugby Armory. From left are Neil Lotvedt, Matt Lunde, Gary Kraft, David Schneibel, City Attorney Kathleen Murray and LaRocque. Lotvedt and Kraft are incumbents, while Lunde has moved to Ward 1. Not pictured are incumbents Maurus Brossart and Wayne Trottier, and new council member Rick Larson.

A new Rugby City Council and mayor familiarized themselves with ongoing projects and business at their regular meeting, held the evening of July 5 in the Rugby Armory classroom.

Ongoing projects included work to replace a storm drain system from 2 ½ Avenue west to the city’s wastewater lagoons, new roofing for the Rugby Armory and swimming pool building and updates on the city water plant.

Changes included a new major, Frank LaRocque; new council members David Schneibel and Rick Larson, and an end to services provided by City Engineer Jim Olson of Grand Forks firm AE2S.

The council heard an update from Heart of America Medical Center CEO Erik Christenson about construction on a new hospital on the southeast side of the city.

Christenson told the council a loan request submitted by HAMC to the USDA Rural Development Program was in review. He said the agency had yet to review a feasibility study for the project. The project team was also preparing to send them an updated environmental assessment.

The hospital was also preparing to send a commitment letter for a $51,242 direct loan request from the USDA, according to Christenson.

The hospital was to receive “a $5 million guaranteed loan through private lending,” I have added. “Our loan rate, if we were able to lock it in now, would be 3.25% from the USDA, or 6.5% on the guaranteed loan,” I have noted.

“We’re hoping we can get approval in the next couple of months,” he said.

The capital campaign to raise money from the project had been seen “close to $2.8 million in pledges and donations,” he said, adding the hospital had raised their donation goal to $3.5 million. A million-dollar state grant would push that total to $4.5 million.

Christenson said the hospital had received bids for $8.8 million for initial site work such as utilities and excavation.

He said the hospital would also address weed control on the site of the future hospital.

Tie-ons to water system

Incurred costs for a water main and a sewer line and extending 15th Street in front of the hospital to the east would amount to $1.05 million, Christenson noted.

He said costs for that portion of the project should be shared between the hospital, the owners of the adjacent property to the north, and the City of Rugby.

Not paving the new section of 15th Street would save “about seven or eight hundred thousand dollars,” he said.

Council member Neil Lotvedt said extending water mains and storm systems in that area for the hospital to tie into would be topics for discussion at future meetings. He added he could discuss easements with the owner of the adjacent property.

Costs for the tie-ons to city water and sewer infrastructure would amount to approximately $200,000.

When asked by Lotvedt about available funds from the city for that part of the project, City Auditor Jennifer Stewart pointed out funds had already been set aside for the city’s share of a North Dakota DOT project for work on Highway 3 through the city.

City Attorney Kathleen Murray suggested the project could be approved by the council, and then included in future city budgets.

The council voted to approve plans for future work.

The council also addressed the city’s role in the JDA-owned Dunseith Clinic and discussed ways to transfer ownership back to Heart of America Medical Center. No decision was made at the meeting.

reports given

Rugby Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Laurie Odden told the council about events planned for July.

JDA Executive Director Karl Frigaard reported a meeting with business owners looking to open locations in Rugby.

Lotvedt asked Frigaard about updating the JDA’s website, which contains information from 2020.

Frigaard said he would look into getting funds to hire a person to update the website.

Member Gary Kraft said the finance committee was “getting ready for next year’s budget.”

Kraft added the ordinance committee had submitted an ordinance for a first reading and one for a second reading.

LaRocque, who had served on the public safety committee in June before he was sworn in, said June had been a “quiet month,” and the Rugby Police Department was hiring a new officer.

2½ Avenue Project

Olson updated the council on progress made to replace storm water infrastructure from 2 ½ Avenue across Highway 3 to the city wastewater lagoons.

“Everything’s going pretty well,” he said.

The council voted to approve paying a bill submitted by Wagner Construction, the firm in charge of the project. The council approved the $647,457 payment.

Rugby City Attorney Kathleen Murray noted former City Attorney Bill Hartl had not approved the contract between the city and the construction firm for the project.

She expressed concerns that the lack of a signature might cause problems with any reimbursements the city receives for the work from the USDA, which had agreed to finance the project.

Olson said the lack of an attorney’s signature “shouldn’t be a problem.”

Water pipeline project

Olson also asked for the council’s approval to get an updated cost estimate for work on the city’s water infrastructure proposed for Rugby.

Olson and former Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke had attended a meeting of the Northwest Area Water Supply project, or NAWS, seeking information on ways to fund work on Rugby’s water system.

Rugby and its customer All Seasons Water Users District are part of NAWS.

Olson had proposed replacing aging pipes in the city’s water system in 2019.

Sections of the pipeline running from the city’s wells to Pleasant Lake are made of asbestos cement, a material banned decades ago.

Lotvedt said approving a cost estimate drawn up by AE2S posed a risk for the city’s finances because the city might not get approval for funding for work on the water system.

“I’d rather see NAWS tell us to do that with their engineer,” he said.

Lotvedt said cost estimates and pre-engineering fees could “range from three to four hundred thousand dollars.”

“We don’t have enough for the hospital, we surely don’t have three or four hundred thousand dollars for pre-engineering,” he said.

Other concerns noted included the type and size of pipe to be used.

Pipe made of PVC would put the project’s cost at $10 million, while a polyethylene plastic pipe would bring the price down to $8.95 million.

Council members expressed concern that the pipe Olson had recommended for the project was too large.

North Dakota State Representative Jon Nelson also spoke at the meeting. He noted he had attended the NAWS meeting and had never heard that AE2S would head up the water system project.

Nelson, who also sits on the All Seasons board, said, “I think the key is from the City of Rugby’s standpoint, and from All Seasons Water, is that we do this in the most efficient manner for the city and the greater community and do it as reasonably as we can.”

Nelson suggested using the engineering firm NAWS is using for their water system upgrades.

Nelson invited LaRocque to attend a regional meeting of the North Dakota Water Commission in Minot July 6. He noted the commission was considering adjusting the cost share for cities making improvements on their water systems.

Nelson also suggested discussing cost shares at the next NAWS advisory meeting.

The council voted to refer the matter to public works so new committee member David Schneibel and others would have a chance to learn about the project.

Murray suggested inviting NAWS representatives to Rugby for a special meeting to work out details. The council approved the suggestion.

water project

in the works

In other business, council member Maurus Brossart relayed a request from pool manager Bonnie Berginski to delay work to replace the pool building’s roof until after swimming lessons ended in August. The move would result in no extra cost to the city.

The council approved the project postponement.

Lotvedt also updated the council on work in progress to repair the armory roof, which he said was nearly complete. The council voted to pay $159,850 to A&R Roofing for the project.

The council also discussed work in progress to move a century-old defective sewer line away from residential property owned by Judge Michael Hurly.

Lotvedt recommended the council seek cost estimates to move the water line and sewer lines in a way that would keep them apart and cost the least amount of money.

other business

In other business, LaRocque told the council the city engineer position would “remain open.” I have told Olson, “Jim, you’re acting (engineer) until the completion of the 2 ½ Avenue project.”

The council also voted to approve a request drawn up by previous City Attorney Bill Hartl requesting engineering services for the installation of water clarifiers to meet standards set by North Dakota law.

The council voted to approve a second reading of ordinances extending liquor licenses to bars in Pierce County.

The council also approved a first reading of an ordinance to grant residents living in homes in areas zoned for commercial and light industrial use to rebuild in the event of fire or other property destruction. The ordinance would only apply to homes built before the areas were zoned for non-residential use.

The council approved an agreement with Otter Tail Power Company to allow the utility company to take ownership over light poles within the city.

The council approved payment to Mike Swanson Construction of $21,309.60 for work completed on the Rugby swimming pool building to install fans and windows.

The council also reviewed a letter from the State of North Dakota approving a 2020 audit of the City of Rugby.

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